Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Appeal to Emotion Used to Mask Bad Argument

English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings
English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are certain "trigger words" that elicits certain strong emotions from most of us, and many are culture and religion specific.

In the Western cultures, words pedophile and rape are such trigger words, as are "The Holy Bible", Church, Marriage, Jesus, and so on. In the Islamic culture, any mention of Prophet (Blessed is His name) Mohammed and (there is but one God) Allah, and the Quoran (Koran) are trigger words. There are bazillion other examples. Similar examples exist for virtually every culture in the world.

Humans learn by analogy and metaphors. We can say things like "He's as annoying as scratching fingernails on a chalkboard", and people understand the reference (if they have seen a blackboard / chalkboard before) even though we're comparing something as intangible as personality to something tangible as a specific noise.

When trigger words are used in an analogy, the trigger words often end up overwhelming the analogy, and thus, the point the speaker was trying to make. When the analogy breaks down due to use of emotional "trigger words", problem starts.

This can be done by accident... or by deliberate action.

Why does certain trigger words have this much power? It is due to our decision making mechanism in our brains. We have two systems... We have a slow and deliberate system (sometimes called "reasoning system") that takes time to analyze the factors, calculate scenarios, and come up with an optimal solution. We also have a fast but inaccurate "snap-your-finger" decision system (sometimes called "pattern recognizer") that lets us make quick decisions (or at least within a few moments) based on past experiences but without full contemplation.

The pattern recognizer system is heavily affected by emotions. In general, the more emotion, the less deliberation. Thus, even the decision to use the fast vs. slow system may be affected by emotion.

Scammers and people who want to promote an unpopular position often use this to "stack the deck" in their favor by triggering emotional responses to dress up your own side (appeal to the "American Dream", "end of rat race and money problems" is a frequent one used by scammers) while talk down your opposition (stealing your dreams, negativity, doubters, they just don't understand)

Scammers want you to use the quick decision system as much as possible, by loading their sales pitch with emotion trigger words, time pressure (such as countdown clock), and by misrepresenting / neglecting to mention certain factors that you would have asked or (or spotted) had you not been under the influence of emotion and use the fast-but-hazy reasoning center instead of the slow-but-deliberate reasoning center that you *should* be using.

And thus, by appealing to emotion, the scammers have succeeded in stacking the odds in their favor and masked their bad argument.

Thus, appeal to emotion should be avoided as much as possible.
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment